De-romanticizing the Black Barbershop in the 21st Century
Ever since the Black barbershop’s provenance, there has been this pervasive thought that it is a utopian space where all types of liberating discourses take place. The Black barbershop has been widely thought of as a space where Black men “keep it real.” Black-owned barbershops date back as early as 1854 in America (see Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. For this piece, I limit the focus on the Black barbershop to its 21st century epoch, the epoch we currently reside in, of course. From the outset, I want to admit that my direct experience with Black barbershops is primarily limited to those in the American South and Midwest. The Black barbershop has certainly lost much of the utopian, liberating, and subversive energies that it once had during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.), and they have been spaces where men have discussed serious topics and have organized and strategized for substantive change in this country, especially during the
While I’m not arguing that the Black barbershop has completely lost all of these aforementioned energies, I am contending that the Black barbershop is not as powerful of a space as it was during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Our nostalgia for Black barbershops during those aforementioned movements is conspicuous in how we perceive and discuss Black barbershops. The purpose of this article is to complicate and extend the discourse about the 21st century Black barbershop.
Performativity in the Black Barbershop
While Black men in the barbershop showed serious signs during the 1960s – 1970s of “keeping it real,” this past site of “keeping it real” has largely morphed into a space of performance. In many Black barbershops I’ve visited, many of the Black men in them have traded in the revolutionary spirit of Black men in the 1960s and 1970s for a “cool pose.” Majors and Billson (1992) assert that the idea of “cool pose” is a stress coping strategy that is employed by Black males that features hypermasculine behavior to help them to be able to bear the multifarious barriers and pressures an oppressive, racist, and discriminatory America present them. While the Black barbershop was once a place where Black men were highly focused on talking about subversive ways to resist oppression and discrimination, many of them are now competing with one another in this space to prove who has had sex with the most women.